The Way It Ought to Be With Parents and Teens!
In 1984, my dad took a new job. He was the manager of a new music store in the Atlanta, Georgia area. The goal in taking the new job was that he might have more time at home. The opposite happened. Six months into my ninth grade year (the most spiritually critical time of my life, and for most teenagers) he was working sixteen-hour days just to get this store operational. His only day off was Sunday, which was committed to morning church, a long afternoon nap (from exhaustion), and then Sunday evening services. As I look back on this scenario, I’m amazed now at how the devil tried to fragment my family at the most important time of my spiritual development.
Fortunately, my dad and mom were more sensitive to the needs of our family than to a paycheck or a career. Thankfully they didn’t relegate the job of raising us to the church, the youth group, or the Christian school (though we were actively a part of all of the above). When it came down to it, the only way for my dad to get his old sales job back—one with more freedom to operate by his own schedule—was to accept a different sales territory. I’ll never forget the night my parents sat us all down to explain that we would be moving. Ultimately, that move took us to California and gave way to untold divine appointments in my life and future. Yet, in the short term, it was an incredibly difficult thing for me to accept.
Looking back, I needed what my parents did in that decision! I needed my dad and mom to put everything on the line to keep our family from becoming fragmented. And they did. They seemed willing to move heaven and earth to maintain our family time—our connection. Far more than I needed my sports, my friends, or my “life”—I needed Dad and Mom, and they went to great lengths to protect “us”!
Why didn’t I run to rebellion, sex, drugs, alcohol, or other forms of “pain-killers” when I was a teen? I simply didn’t need to. I had Dad and Mom, and we were really good friends. The best defense against the pollution of the worlds system is a close relationship with Mom and Dad! No wonder the Devil fights this relationship so hard during the teen years. Teens divided from their parents are highly vulnerable and easily led astray. Teens who are close to their parents have full hearts!
Parent, can you say that you are “really good friends” with your teenager? I realize, your role of biblical authority must remain the priority. I’m not asking if you can act like a kid. I’m asking—are you relationally close? One look at our schedules could leave us sometimes wondering if we deliberately avoid each other! Often in counseling families, I want to stop the conversation and simply ask, “When did you stop liking your child?” “When did you stop liking your parents?”
The Devil is tricky and delights in destroying the heart connection of parents and teens. So, I challenge you to resist the trend. Fight back. Don’t accept relational distance in your family as normal. Make whatever changes you must to reclaim closeness with your teenager.
God commands us to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) He also commands us to teach His truth “…diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7 ) We can’t do these things without spending time together and having a close friendship rooted in a strong heart connection.
A couple of years ago, I walked into my office and found this handwritten letter taped to my computer screen. It was from my thirteen-year-old son Lance. He had come by while I was out. As I unfolded the letter, what I read was priceless. His words literally melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes. This is what he wrote:
I love you so, so, so much, and you are the best dad in the world! I know, I tell you that all the time, every night, I know, I know, but Dad you don’t know what I really mean when I say you’re the best. When I say you’re the best each night, I mean it. I mean you’re my friend no matter what tries to get in the way, we will always be true best friends.
You know Dad… you don’t embarrass me in front of my friends, you pray with me every night (I mean what dad does that!), and I like it. You can do it till I am 30 years
old, and I still will love it. Anyway… what I’m trying to get across to you is there is nobody ever in this universe that can replace you. I mean you are the ultimate! Love you Dad, I’m with you all the way!
Love, your best friend,
Lance D. Schmidt
That letter, in a few simple words from a young boy, seems to express so loudly the deepest needs of a teenager’s heart. He expresses so simply how much he longs for and craves a strong relationship with me. The cry of my children’s hearts—the cry of your children’s hearts is what compelled the writing of these words. My heart’s cry to God is that in ten or twenty years, Lance’s words, “You’re my friend, no matter what tries to get in the way… I’m with you all the way,” will still be a spiritual reality with all of my children. I pray this will be true in your family as well.
Parent—look at your schedule this week and make your teenager a priority in your life.
Youth Worker—engage in the battle to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. That’s your primary responsibility.
Teen—run to your parents, restore your closeness, and claim the best friends you have in this world!